As I write this, I’ve just heard about the plight of the young autistic boy from Dickson who has been missing for the last three or four days. Hundreds of volunteers from the community have been scouring the countryside looking for him. His name is Joe Daniel. Now we learn that Little Joe, whose condition makes it difficult for him to speak, was killed by his own father. As of this writing there has been no motive determined.
Motive. What in God’s name could cause a father to murder his son? Apply all the psychology you can to this horrible tale, but don’t forget to include at least a mention of evil. Something evil happened inside this father. That it may have been caused by all manner of trauma in this man’s life will not be a surprise. But it is also unspeakably evil.
Feel free if you like to say “the devil made him do this.” I find that people don’t really need to blame evil acts on any outside agent. We, all of us, apparently are capable under the wrong circumstances of performing evil actions. Maybe this is what the early church meant when it devised a theology of original sin. Or maybe the easier way to say it is how one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. Liston Mills, said it: “When you come right down to it, people are just no damn good.”
My personal heart today is to feel deep sympathy for this boy and his other family. These kinds of stories--schoolyard shootings, horrible abuse, random acts of violence--serve to remind us why the church and our story of death and resurrection are needed now more than ever. The story of God and Christ is not passé. It is as vital as it has ever been. More and more it is clear that left to our own devices, we will destroy each other and our planet.
Our story says there is something better--something more. There is Purpose and Mind behind the universe. And the core of it is Love.